Monthly Review

June 2022 Wrap-Up Post

June was an oddly good pleasant and productive month for me. Things, of course, were rocky with everything *gestures to the world* going on, but I think I’ve thrown myself into my work in order to cope. I will say, at this point, I’m feeling a little fried. With productivity comes the back swing of fatigue and minor burnout, so I’m starting July mindful of that. Here were my goals for June:

  • Read 8 books
  • Word count goals
    • Minimum goal 13k
    • Real goal 15k
    • Stretch goal 17k
  • Finish the room/office destruction/cleaning
  • Blog weekly
  • Monthly newsletter
  • Approve cover design
  • Work on new reader magnet story
  • Play a video game/do some crafts

Books

I set out to read 8 books in June, and I read 9 books total.

  1. By Pain of Death by Suzanne Clay- 4 stars, a trans retelling of Hades and Persephone where the latter is a trans man. It was a tender hurt-comfort sort of story.
  2. Briarley by Aster Glenn Gray- 5 stars, an MM Beauty and the Beast retelling featuring a vicar and a dragon man in a cursed manor. I loved this so much, like I was upset when I finished because it was the right amount of tenderness and angst.
  3. I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston- 5 stars, a mystery mixed with romance featuring tons of queer characters in a conservative school and how you can still find community and make change.
  4. Saga Volume 4 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples- 4 stars, rereading Saga in preparation for volume 10 in October
  5. The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes (#2) by Cat Sebastian- 5 stars, Robin Hood-esque story following a prickly woman who murderers her horrible husband to save her family/friends and the soft, animal-loving blackmailer who loves her.
  6. The Jade Setter of Janloon (#0.5) by Fonda Lee- 4 stars, a prequel story set in the same world as Jade City.
  7. Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs by Caitlin Doughty- 5 stars, a nonfiction book about the strange questions kids want to know about the dead. As always, Doughty doesn’t sensationalize things and her authorial voice is *chef kiss*.
  8. Deceiver of Minds (#3.5) by Jordan L. Hawk- 4 stars, John, Caleb, and Grey try to find others who went through the same horrible experiments as John and end up in the crossfire as loyalties are tested and relationships turn out to be more than they appeared.
  9. Total Creative Control (#1) by Johanna Chambers and Sally Malcolm- 4 stars, a boss x personal assistant romance centering around a TV show about vampires. I love a prickly, complex character. Much like Sebastian’s book, it’s a bit of grumpy x sunshine romance, and I’m here for it.

Admin/Behind the Scenes Author Stuff

  • Nearly completed the entirety of my room/office clean-out. At this point, I’ve stalled out because I need to put a lot of stuff into the garbage and only have so much room in the can per week. But the bulk of cleaning and tossing is done.
  • Chose the direction for the cover design of The Reanimator’s Heart with my designer, and it is BEAUTIFUL. I’m waiting on the final mock up from my cover designer, but once I have that in the next few weeks, the preorder will go up. I can promise you that it is absolutely lovely and fits this book so damn well it hurts.
  • Created a detailed release plan that scares the shit out of me to look at for The Reanimator’s Heart. It is the most thorough plan I have had in years, and that scares me a bit since my last release was in the middle of the pandemic while I was running on fumes mentally.
  • Played/finished TWO video games. I have been trying to make an effort to actually play some games to help recharge, and I finally succeeded. They weren’t the games I initially bought, but both were good.
    • Unpacking is quite short, but it is super low stress. It tells a story through the objects a person brings from house to house as throughout their life. It is cute and sweet.
    • The second I played was Strange Horticulture, which takes place in a creepy British town where you run a horticulture/plant shop that sells rare and strange plants. You need to figure out what people need while also helping/hurting a strange figure take over. I don’t want to giveaway too much, but if you like puzzles, plants, and murder towns, it’s really good.
  • Made a list of Amazon genres for The Reanimator’s Heart when it comes out
  • Outlined the entirety of the newsletter freebie, which has a new title, “Flowers and Flourishing.” I did not start writing yet, but that’s fine because I’ve been focusing on The Reanimator’s Heart.

Blogs Posted


Writing

My minimum goal for June was to write 15k words, and shockingly, I wrote 18k! I was amazed at how much I wrote. It’s an exceptionally high number for me as I tend to be a put-put writer, but once I hit the middle of the book, things tend to speed up a little (thank god).

  • Week 1- 2,500 words and missed 1 day, 625 words/day (5 day week)
  • Week 2- 5,000 words and missed 0 days, 714 words/day
  • Week 3- 3,000 words and missed 1 day, 500 words/day
  • Week 4- 4,600 words and missed 1 day, 767 words/ day
  • Week 5- 2,900 words and missed 0 days, 725 words/day (4 day week)

I would like to know how I managed to blow my goal out of the water, but I do sort of know. Hit the right part of the book, not teaching any classes right now, and plenty of alone time to work. I feel like my writing muscles are finally coming back to how they were circa 2018. If I could keep them going while avoiding burnout, that would be magnificent.

I really like how this book is shaping up, so fingers crossed, the editing process should be fairly smooth. If you’re interested in my writing process, check out last week’s blog and stay tuned for next week’s blog, which is about the editing process.


Hopes for July

  • Finish Writing The Reanimator’s Heart
  • Start Editing the beginning of The Reanimator’s Heart
  • Figure out what to do with old room furniture/prep for reno
  • Start drafting newsletter freebie, at least a little bit
  • Do the cover reveal
  • Start making release graphics
  • Read 8 books
  • Crochet something?? Or do some other art project??
organization · Personal Life

How I’m Getting My Sh*t Together

If you saw my post on “Life’s a Mess but There’s Hope,” you know that I have been having a rather rough time. Earlier in the year, due to life/emotional stress (or from a potential asymptomatic covid leftover), I was struggling with brain fog, checking OCD, and general anxiety. This combined with work stuff and writing malaise had wreaked havoc on my self-esteem and self-worth, so while I was mainlining YouTube videos, as one does when they feel shitty, I came across Sarra Cannon’s videos about her quarterly planning.

I already am a big proponent of using planners and have used a bullet journal every year since 2016, but when my downhill mental spiral started in earnest in 2020, I stopped setting concrete goals and my organization devolved from there to the bare minimum. So when I saw Sarra’s planning videos, I was excited, especially since she is a writer and entrepreneur, and it turns out her HB90 system is centered around exactly that. Before I go on, I’d like to say that I am in no way affiliated with Sarra’s classes. I just took the HB90 course and felt that I benefited from it.

What is the HB90 system?

The HB90 system was created by author Sarra Cannon (YouTube channel is Heart Breathings) as a way to help others stay organized and move toward the ideal life they want. Instead of focusing on a year at a time, she breaks things down by quarter. Some of you might shrug and say it sounds like every other planner, but there were certain aspects that greatly appealed to me.

The first one was that this system focused on quarterly goals instead of yearly goals. A problem I often faced was getting off track due to life and my yearly goals would rapidly spiral into why bother land. I wouldn’t be able to right that ship and would give up. By having quarterly goals, they are smaller chunks, and after each quarter/90 days, you do a review and figure out what worked, what didn’t work, and what you need to do. That way, if you know you were doing something self-sabotaging, you can sort of check yourself and figure out how to move forward. Also, you can decide if you want to continue a half-finished/unfinished goal or shelve it next quarter.

The other thing that appealed to me was the visualization/ideal life aspect. At the beginning of the course (and each quarter), you fill out questions regarding what you truly want your life to look like. The idea is that if you have a specific direction/vision, you know that your goals should aim you toward that vision and you can eliminate or minimize things that won’t move you toward that life. It wasn’t done in a “you should be rich in the future with a mansion and a convertible” or girlboss kind of way. She’s simply asking you to find an ideal in order to make sure your choices make sense. Something I struggle with is “spaghetti flinging,” so if I don’t know what I need to do, I will do all the things instead. This means, I do a lot of random stuff that doesn’t amount to much. This is meant to eliminate that because I can say, “Yes, this idea is great, but this isn’t what I’m focusing on right now.”

I don’t want to go over every aspect of this course (this is what taking the course is for), but something I appreciated was that Sarra Cannon is mindful of reality and different realities. She asks you to be realistic but also kind to yourself. Don’t set yourself up for failure by being like “New Year New Me!” while still having old you’s habits and abilities. You have to work on that gradually, and I was so relieved to hear her talk about if you have chronic health problems and budgeting your time based on how often you know those things take you out of commission. This really isn’t a hustle culture kind of thing, so that work til you drop and hustle harder wasn’t there. It was about knowing what you are currently capable of and potentially working toward different habits in the future or scheduling yourself better right now. As someone who has inflammation problems, migraines, and anxiety, I can’t live up to the ableist standard of hustle culture, so this took some of that pressure off me while I was working on my goals/schedule.

My Ideal Life

When I was asked to imagine my ideal life, I struggled a bit. Academia has been going through a weird time of upheaval, especially in the humanities where I work, and that has made my own life more complicated. What I decided to do for my ideal life was to create a vision board on Pinterest, and I quickly realized it would make no sense to anyone but me. What I want is a life lived creatively. I want a rich, fulfilling life that is focused on things that make me feel good: my partner, my dogs, going to museums, doing creative writing, doing more art. There’s certainly room in there for a full-time academic position if one should ever come available, but I don’t feel like I can bank on that due to the current climate at US universities. I would like to model my life a little on Vincent Price’s. He was an actor, obviously, but he also loved art and cooking, and I want a life that is filled with creativity in various forms (he also wrote a book about his dog, The Book of Joe). I already crochet, but I’d like to do more traditional art, maybe even pottery, and I’d eventually like to live off my writing (especially if teaching full-time is ever off the table). This means my overall goals should be pointing me toward being able to rely on my writing more and giving myself the space to treat my writing seriously.

My Goals for 2022 Quarter 1

Goals in the HB90 system are a little different from what we normally think of as goals. The HB90 system asks you to pick things for goals that are slightly out of your control. That way you can see whether the tasks you put under them worked or not. So I’m not posting ALL of my projects under these goals, but the idea is that you have an overarching goal, then projects under it (larger scale stuff that you would normally consider goals) and those projects get broken into tasks that can be accomplished between a few hours or a week’s time. So here are my goals for Q1:

  1. To work on publishing new books while reworking my back list to increase my monthly income to $X/$Y/$Z a month (numbers have been hidden because I felt awkward talking about how much I make off my books).
  2. To create an energized community surrounding my works and increase my social media followers by 10%/15%/20% (Focus on newsletter, blog, Instagram, Twitter).
  3. Continue to work on my teaching materials and to maintain my mental health by maintaining a decent work-life balance.

To accomplish these goals, I will be writing more (please see my 2022 Projects post for specifics), reading some books on marketing, taking another course to keep my author knowledge up to date, hopefully sending out more newsletters, fixing the back matter in my books, and working on some departmental stuff for one of the universities I work at.

The Kanban Board

The top level of my Kanban board for quarter 1, aka the to-do section. The other sections aren’t shown since they’re empty.

To keep this post from being 8 miles long, I will not go into minute detail about the Kanban board (you can check out one of Sarra’s videos for detail), but the Kanban board is part of the HB90 setup as well. It is originally a Japanese form of organization where you get a dry erase board/paper/digital board and divide it into three parts. It goes to-do, currently working on, done. The idea is that you put everything in the to-do part, and as you work on it, you move it down until it ends up in the done section. Sarra uses sticky notes, and because my tasks aren’t super granular this quarter, I decided to use dry erase magnets as they are less likely to fall off.

The things written on each magnet are tasks that I need to do this quarter. I’m sure I’m missing some, but that’s what the extra magnets are for. What I like about this technique is that it is very visual. I am a tactile, visual person who needs lists in front of my face in order to remember to do things. If I can see progress (aka things moving down the board), I think I will feel better about myself and maintaining my mental health with be easier. Something I have struggled with is feeling like I’m doing so much but not getting anywhere. Something I’m still gauging is how much will fit in 90 days, but that should come with practice and will vary based on what classes on I’m teaching and such.

Final Thoughts

I’m excited to have some sort of framework in which to organize my writing and indie author stuff because these last few years have been a shit show for me. Sarra Cannon’s videos and course has helped to reignite my focus and zest for being an indie author. I’m cautiously hopeful that this will get me back on track.

Let me know if you want to know anything else about the HB90 program or how I use planners in the future! I do plan to update you all on how this is going at the end of the quarter.